Aeolus 13 Umbra has reviewed several 1970s Saturday morning sci-fi TV shows, including Land of the Lost, Space Academy, and Jason of Star Command, but if I had to choose just one quintessential 70s Saturday morning sci-fi show it would be Ark II. The costumes, vehicles, props, and eco-friendly storylines, definitely have a sense of the zeitgeist of the era. When researching the series, I didn’t think I would find much, but was surprised to see that it maintains a small core of dedicated, if middle-aged, fans who carry on the show’s legacy with videos, prop replicas, and models. Articles and blog entries are numerous, including one by author, director, and film critic John Kenneth Muir who reviews each episode of the series.
José Flores’ (Samuel) first credit is a 1976 appearance in an episode of Barney Miller before he was cast in Ark II, the highest profile role in his ten-year career which essentially ended in 1986 (except for one further credit in a small part in the 2011 Mexican film La hija del capo mayor). As a minor, his parents were always on set, and as both he and Moochie the chimp, and sometimes Ark II itself, could only work a few hours a day, production had to move as quickly as possible. Despite his youth, Flores gives a sincere and often impassioned, if not always polished, performance as Samuel.
The list of guest stars features a roster of both veteran and up-and-coming stars including, Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island), John Fielder (Tigger, Winnie the Pooh), Jonathan Harris (Lost in Space), Geoffrey Lewis (Any Which Way You Can?, Bronco Billy, Tom Horn), Malachi Throne (It Takes a Thief, Star Trek), a masked Del Monroe (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), and the always reliable Vito Scotti (The Godfather); younger actors such as Helen Hunt (Mad About You, Castaway), and Dawn Lyn (My Three Sons), and Mitch Vogel (Bonanza); and little-known character actors whose long list of credits date back to Hollywood’s Golden Era such as William “Billy” Benedict, Guy Stockwell, Harry Townes, and even Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet turns up! There are many more than can be provided here, but the expert talent helps raise the episodes to their potential.
|Ark II (top); Landmaster (bottom).|
There was no merchandise produced during the Ark II series run, which is a bit odd since even the equally short-lived single season of Sealab 2020 managed a board game and slides for the 1972 Kenner Give-A-Show Projector. Since Sealab 2020 didn’t last beyond the Fall 1972 season, merchandise development was concurrent with the series' development, even if a full season of episodes had not, nor would be, approved. The same goes for the short-lived live-action Korg 70,000 B.C., which only managed 19 episodes for the 1974-75 season. Despite its nearly equal short length, Korg produced a board game, lunch box, and comic book tie-ins. Nothing seems to have been planned for Ark II and this was another missed opportunity for Filmation. Nevertheless, interest in the show, while a small and niche market, remains and several model kits of the Ark II vehicle are currently available nearly five decades later after the show first ran.
Ark II’s main competition at 11 A.M. Saturday mornings was Land of the Lost, in its third and final season, and the second half hour of the 90-minute Kroft Supershow whose segments included the popular "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl," making stiff competition for the environmentally-minded series. With the hugely successful Land of the Lost winding down, and the fast-action and variety of the The Kroft Supershow, the slower-paced Ark II must have paled by comparison. CBS moved Ark II to 12:30 P.M. Saturdays in February 1977; however, by noon network affiliates were allowed to cut away for local programming, and even if they did not, by that time most kids were summarily being licked out of the house after spending the entire morning in front of the television. Reruns were scheduled for Sundays in 1977, an unconventional time for a program meant to run on Saturday mornings, but even if ratings suddenly exploded, the demise of the show was already decided. By the Spring of 1977, production had begun on Space Academy and the Ark II vehicle was already being parted out to build the space-going Seeker for the new series.
by G. Jack Urso. Click on the links below to view the |
episodes on the Aeolus 13 Umbra Ark II TV YouTube channel.